1991 / Best Director

Film #522: Thelma and Louise (1991)

Moving on to the other film for which Ridley Scott received his Best Director nomination and a movie which I feel deserved to be in contention for Best Picture. Once again Thelma and Louise proves how diverse a director Scott is as we’ve seen his work take us from the gladiatorial arenas, to the streets of Mogadishu and now we journey the open roads of America. Whilst both Scott’s previous efforts where undeniably macho, Thelma and Louise puts its female characters front and centre whilst the supporting male players are comparatively weaker.

The story of Thelma and Louise follows the titular dames as they head out for a weekend away fishing only to go on the run after the latter kills a man who is attempting to rape the former. Thelma and Louise is a film I’ve watched many times before as it formed the basis of my MA¬†dissertation. Upon this most recent viewing I initially thought that the film may not have been as good as I remembered however once it gets into its second hour the tension is ramped up massively. Callie Khouri’s Oscar winning screenplay sees the downtrodden Thelma become empowered as the film progresses as she calmly robs a gas station and later threatens a cop at gunpoint. Scott’s direction meanwhile allows us to get to know the characters, closing in on their expressions as their cross-country road trip becomes more and more perilous. Scott deserved his nomination for the final sequence alone in which our heroines are finally trapped by the police as they approach the Grand Canyon. The gradual build-up along with the famous final shot have stuck in my memory ever since I still watched it and I still found it to be a gripping viewing experience.

Aside from Khouri and Scott’s contribution to the movie, Thelma and Louise’s other great attributes are the performances delivered by Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis. Both are fantastic with Sarandon portraying Louise as the stronger of the two albeit someone with a tragic past. Meanwhile Davis brilliantly goes from nervy wife to unlikely robber in the course of an hour and all the time makes it believable. Both women were rightfully nominated for the Best Actress Oscar but were both beaten by Jodie Foster however I’d contend that either Davis or Sarandon would’ve made for a better winner. If I was to pick between the two I’d say that Davis was slightly stronger and she definitely deserves to be recognised for this film more than she does her average turn in The Accidental Tourist.

Just like he was in 2001, Scott was one of two Best Director nominees whose films didn’t receive a Best Picture nod which in the case of Thelma and Louise is a minor travesty. This is even more apparent when you consider the fact that Barbara Streisand’s woeful The Prince of Tides garnered one of that year’s spots. Thankfully Scott was nominated over Streisand in the directing category and I personally would’ve like to have seen Thelma and Louise replace it in the Best Picture category as well. This is because Thelma and Louise is such a fantastic film at parts entertaining, thrilling and occasionally very funny the movie is bolstered by a couple of brilliant performances, a well-written script and trusty hand at the helm in the form of Ridley Scott.

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